Assessing Local SEO Competition – Part 1

How much should it cost you for your local seo program? The answer is based on one key factor – competition for the keywords you’re targeting.

Assessing Local SEO Competition – Part 1

This will be a multi-part series on assessing small business SEO local competition. This first part will define exactly what we will be looking for to determine the level of competition. Parts to follow will deal with tools for manual assessment and then tools for automating the assessment process.

Here are the factors we will looking at in Part 1:

Who’s Number 1?
Google Places
Adwords Competition
Google Keyword Traffic
Google Recommendation
Real SEO Competition

Who Is Ranking Number 1 in Google?

It’s best to use an example. Since we are focusing on small business, let’s go with a geographically targeted keyword phrase – Biloxi Seafood Restaurants. Although I picked Biloxi randomly, it is a good example of how small businesses are addressing local SEO.

So, the question is who among the local Biloxi seafood restaurants in number 1? The answer is not as easy as it looks. First Mary Mahoney’s is at the top of the Google Places 7-pack.

Google Places for Biloxi Seafood

Google places are not part of SEO, but SEO is part of Google Places. I’ll explain shortly. For now though, see the Mary Mahoney’s is first in Google Places.

Looking at the top 10 listings in the natural or organic search results, we see no local restaurants with the exception of Bonefish Grill which is a national chain. All the other organic listings are from Yelp, Yahoo and other aggregators. By aggregator, I mean a site that take information for a location, builds a page and then has it rank because of the size of the site (in number of pages).

Organic Listing for Biloxi Seafood

Mary Mahoney’s is the first organic listing for a local restaurant – at the top of page two. No other local restaurant is ranked in the top 50 of Google results. Mary Mahoney’s has the top Google Places listing and the top organic listing. This is unlikely an accident. Mary Mahoney’s is at the top of Google Places because they are the top organically ranked site. Otherwise, neither Mahoney’s or any other Biloxi seafood restaurant is aggressively pursuing SEO.

Google Places

We discussed Google Places above. It is the easiest way to get on the first page of Google – FOR NOW! The key ingredients are reviews and other pages linking to the site with information that Google considers important for Places rankings.

Do you need to be in Google Places. Yes, absolutely starting yesterday. Competitors who are there now are ahead of you in reviews and probably in SEO. Get in Google Places now.

Adwords Competition

A quick competitive review is to make sure there are a few Adwords present. There are only a few Adwords bids showing for Biloxi Seafood Restaurant. It’s probably not a highly searched term, so let’s move to the next step.

Google Keyword Traffic

Access the Google Adwords Keyword Tool by typing “google keyword tool” into the Google search box. Once at the keyword tool, type Biloxi seafood restaurants in the Word or Phrase box. Enter the captcha in the box and click the search button. We see (on this day) that there are 390 monthly searches for Biloxi Seafood Restaurants. That’s about 13 a day. Not a high number, but not bad for one term. Look at the rest of the list we exported from the keyword tool and you’ll see more terms to add to the total:

Biloxi Seafood Restaurant Keywords

Look at the total – 33,439 monthly searches for keyword terms related to Biloxi Seafood Restaurants. Most of that traffic right now is going to the aggregators and they can be pretty easily outranked. If a seafood restaurant in Biloxi wanted to increase sales, there is a golden opportunity. Look at the Competition column. A higher number means more competition, with 1 being the most competitive. This is a low competition market. There is plenty of traffic and low competition. Small Business SEO with Google Places would yield a lot of traffic within six months to year, but probably a lot sooner.

Google Recommendations

Type Biloxi Restaurants in the Google search box and click search. Go to the bottom of the page and you’ll see, Searched related to Biloxi Restaurant. As you can see, Google is giving you additional search terms.

Biloxi Seafood Related Sites

Next, look on the left column of the search results. Click on show search tools and then Wonder Wheel. What have we here? Google is showing more search terms that are related to your term. Analyze each of these terms in the same way and you can see that there is a lot of opportunity.

Biloxi Seafood Wonder Wheel

Real SEO Competition

When you type Biloxi Seafood Restaurants in the Google search box, you’re getting what are called broad match results. This means that Google will give you results broadly related to your term. Type “Biloxi Seafood Restaurants” with the quotes and you are getting Phrase match terms. What is the difference? They show us if anyone is aggressively targeting your search term. They are giving a key element of local SEO competition.

Here are the results in terms of pages returned for each type for Biloxi Seafood Restaurants:

Broad Match – 380,000 pages
Phrase Match – 10,800 pages

We can see that only 2.8% of the pages that Google show in broad match show in phrase match, but let’s take it one step further. Type allintitle:Biloxi Seafood Restaurants. The results show on 363 pages in the world have our search term in the title. Now type allintitle:”Biloxi Seafood Restaurants”. The results drop to 68. That’s our competitive number. These are the pages we need to beat. How tough can that be?

Page Links

The first result of the 68 phrase match allintitle is from Yelp. It is showing 102 backlinks to the page using Yahoo! Site Explorer ( However, site explorer shows only 15 of those links are from external sources and all of those are from one site (Yahoo Local). That’s the number one result and they are there not because of the page strength, but because of the site size. A local site using local SEO should be able to gain that number one listing over time. There’s no guarantee but it should be accomplished in a short period of time.


There’s a lot of material here when you look at it for the first time. We describe the different elements here so that when we talk about automating the process, you’ll know what’s behind the scenes. You can check a few sites following this method, but come back in a few days for Part 2 of Assessing Local SEO Competition. If you have questions or comments just type them in the comment box below.

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